Posted by: Beth | May 8, 2021

LESSONS FROM MAMA

     I sit here typing on Mother’s Day Eve.  My emotions have been all over the place the last couple weeks. Wonderful things have happened in my circles of friends and family.  Not so great things have happened.  Memories, more emotions than events, have flooded my brain.  I’ve struggled with how to do things differently so we create more happy memories than ones we would rather forget. Then, in one instant, all these stories flashed through my mind.  My mama, my teacher. Yes! I can write something this Mother’s Day weekend!   

     Yes, Mama was a teacher. As a young woman, she did not go to college. She had no formal training in education.  But she was one of those natural-born teachers. Perhaps there is something in our blood, in our DNA, that carries that knack of communicating skills and ideas to others. There can be an intuitive side to knowing how to do a task, then figure out enough ways to explain it and demonstrate it so that others can understand and do it, too.
    I don’t remember learning to read. I don’t know how much I knew when I started school, but academics were mostly easy for me all the way through.  We had books.  Even when books were not cheap, we owned books.  We met the book mobile at the old schoolhouse every week during the summer and used the school library during the school year.  Mama made sure I had little math workbooks to do over the summer.  Now I know the educational value of that.  When I was eight, I just thought it was fun to play school. 

     Mama played games with us.  We had house rules for Monopoly and Scrabble decades before “house rules” were an acceptable thing. (I was shocked when I saw space to write house rules in some games we purchased last year.)  She helped us learn to count the Monopoly money.  She gave hints about words that could be made from our seven letters in Scrabble.  As adults, we would all help each other.  None of us became champion Scrabble players, but we had a good time and learned new words.

     Our daughter remembers Granny walking through the yard and woods, showing her which plants could be used for what things.  Years later during graduate school, she reviewed some of those facts. Either Mama was too busy taking care of three children for she and I to do that, or I simply didn’t pay attention.  I was that kind of child.

     Without saying “The arts are important” to overall education, Mama taught us that.  I started piano lessons when we could take them during the school day.  She drove to a friend’s house or our grandmother’s so I could practice that first year.  When during-the-school-day lessons were no longer an option, Mama made sure we got to piano lessons in the community.  During high school my sister played flute and bass drum in the marching band and participated in school plays.

     Mama taught me how to cook and freeze and can. I used to think everybody knew the difference in the consistency of cornbread, biscuits, and cake just before it goes into the pan.

     Occasionally while I’m crocheting someone will ask when I learned how.  I do not know; I’ve just always known. Cross-stitch I remember learning – I was 18.  That’s one thing Mama didn’t teach me. But, she did teach me embroidery and sewing which are close relatives of cross-stitch.

     I could write an entire blog post – or more – of the lessons in these two statements she made.  Our children were young and it was hard to decide sometimes which activities to do and which to skip.  I asked her opinion.  She said, “I have always regretted that I didn’t teach your sister how to make biscuits and that you didn’t get to take dance.  You just have to do the best you can with the information you have at the time and then move on.”

     You are not too old to learn.  When I was born, Mama became a stay-at-home mother until sixteen years later when she went to work in a shirt factory.  When clothing manufacturing moved to China, her factory closed.  A government-funded program paid for her to go to college.  She earned her degree as a licensed practical nurse at the age of 47 and worked in that field until shortly before her death.  I learned that lesson well; I went back to college at the age of 49.

     Community is important.  She and a friend became the leaders of a local 4H chapter so that children would have a place to learn about agriculture, cooking, sewing, electricity, public speaking, and oh so much more.  They MADE us do our jobs as secretary, treasurer, vice-president, and president.  Being shy or rambunctious were replaced with orderly, confident speaking.

    Children are unique and you must bring them up differently.  Our brother had a time academically, and it resulted in some funny stories.  He is also a hard worker and helped financially with the farm when no one else knew about it.  We all knew he was out there with Daddy getting the chores done.

     Children do not need to know everything.  I knew as a child that we didn’t have as much stuff as some other families. Mama told us she had to make payments at the dentist office.  He was more expensive than some others, but he provided care at an orphanage for no cost to those children, and he allowed payment arrangements so she would pay a little more. That taught me that you can manage what you have well enough that you can share with others who are less fortunate. After Daddy died and I had access to some old records, I gained a better idea of how much they had scrimped and saved so they wouldn’t be burden on anyone if they grew very old.  I also appreciate more that as a child I never knew any of that.  I only knew I was loved and cared for and had all my needs and some of my wants.  No need to spill all our adult troubles on our children.  Let them be children.

    There is great value in being at peace with life and death.  The last day I saw her alive she was propped on pillows in a bed at Spartanburg Regional Hospital.  Little 6-month-old grandson cuddled next to her for a while.  At one point she said, “I’m going home tomorrow, one way (pointing out the door) or another (pointing up).”  She died that night.

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | April 29, 2021

Random Ramblings

Manure moments are a part of every life.  Sometimes you wallow in it and wear the stench for all to see and smell.  Sometimes you mix it well with the rest of life so that it produces beautiful, sweet experiences for all around you.

That person who “has it all together” and handles the bumps and twists and turns of life so well has probably experienced more than you want to know.  Thank God for their perseverance.

Coffee, sunrise, and conversation with God are a great start to the day.  I am thankful for friends who encourage me to be consistent with reading the Word and praying intentionally.

Sunshine brightens the day, disinfects, and is essential for growth of plants and animals. The light of the Son brightens our days, cleanses our spirits, and is essential for our spiritual growth.

Gentle showers coax seeds to sprout and grow, bringing new life from the soil. Devasting deluges level landscapes. Both are rainwater.

A can opener leaves a sharp edge on the can.  If you are forgetful and careless, pain and blood remind you. It’s good to have bandages on hand.

A little sugar helps the medicine go down.  A lot of sugar can cause you to need medicine.

Fall football, early spring baseball, cold winter nights, watching TV, after playing in summer rains, not feeling well, reading a book — every life has a time of needing a fuzzy, warm blanket.

Those tree leaves almost hide the sunrise.  They also provide much-loved shade during the heat of the day.

See the mess.  Grieve the mess. Accept the blessings. Choose gratitude.

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | April 28, 2021

LIFE

Life gets nasty.

God sends cleansing showers.

Sickness comes.

God sends insight to health care providers.

We grow weary.

A friend, who cares not one iota how our house looks, stops by for coffee.

Life gets messy.

God sends a breeze to blow away the litter.

Life gets lonely.

The phone rings. We chat. We cry. We laugh.

Life is hard.

God send a friend with a soft heart and a gentle hug.

Resources get scarce.

Food appears on the doorstep.  A utility bill is mysteriously paid.

Life is wonderful! Or not. Still,

Friend and foe alike forge our character into something better.

We ask why about so many things.

We hear no answers.

 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. – Ecclesiastes 13:12 NLT

The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.
– Isaiah 40:8 NLT

Creation.

God’s Word.

Peace.

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | April 11, 2021

TWO WORDS

This morning when I opened my phone and looked at the verse of the day, it was two words.  Just two.  I thought that could not be right, so I looked it up in context.  Sure enough, that verse is two words.  “Pray constantly.”  It isn’t even a whole sentence, although it could be.  It’s in the middle of a sentence.  In the middle of a chapter of very practical advice for everyday living.  But my mind kept coming back to these two words.  Pray constantly.

When you hear “pray constantly,” who comes to mind?  Nuns and monks?  Pastors and other church leaders?  The lady who sits on her porch rocking all afternoon? The grandpa who mutters to himself while he sleeps? The child who stares into space with a smile on his face?

What kind of words do you think of when you hear “pray”? Our father who art in heaven?  Now I lay me day to sleep?  Good food, good meat, good gosh let’s eat? Pleas for healing?  Wordless tears? A list of things you’re thankful for?  Begging for people to act right?

What postures do you see in your mind when you think of people praying?  Kneeling?  Standing at a pulpit? Sitting at a table and holding hands?  Beside a hospital bed?  Standing and gazing in awe at a waterfall?

All of these are possible.  And oh so many more. 

Other than alone, I’ve done most of my praying in a classroom of teenagers.  You never know what they’re going to say or ask.  I wanted to stay calm (that is, not get sent home myself), be honest, and lead them closer to the Lord. I had to talk with God quietly all day long, between snippets of South Carolina history, chemistry, and the tearful “she said that he said that I’m ______.”

How can we pray constantly?  Think of how often you talk with your best friends.  What do you talk about?  Talk about those things with him.  What comes out of our mouths spills from our hearts, and he already knows your heart so it’s doubtful you’ll surprise him.  And if you think it might be offensive, two things. One, he’s probably heard it before.  Two, maybe you should reconsider your thoughts?

      My favorite prayers are more like conversations. We share updates on things we’ve prayed about before. We talk about what’s happening in our lives.  We spend some moments thanking God. One or more of us will have a specific sin we need to confess.  Often it’s attitudes or words we’ve said that didn’t need to be said. Then one of us remembers more news about a family member or friend and we chat. Then one of us starts speaking directly to God again, lifting a praise or a petition.  Sometimes one of us will get an insight into a problem the other has and we’ll share that. Having a conversation that includes speaking directly to God and some time of quiet to hear that still, small voice is a meaningful way to pray.

      However you communicate with God, may it move toward being constant.  As you clean the kitchen, you can thank him for food to eat, electricity to prepare the food, and plumbing that brings clean water right into your home. You can pray for people who don’t have access to fresh water, even to drink.  You can lift up the people who drill wells and share the gospel.  Pray for all those who live the gospel …. mechanics who are honest, door dash drivers who deliver food, pharmacy employees who medicine, teachers who love on their students, pastors, IT personnel who keep the internet going, linemen who keep electricity coming to your home, first responders, child care personnel, warehouse workers, factory workers, the list goes on and on.   

            “Pray constantly.”  I Thessalonians 5:17

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | March 7, 2021

Take Heart, Teacher

Take heart, Teacher, and be encouraged.  You will be appreciated.

Public school, private school, charter school, home school.
College prep, unschooling, classical education, laid-back eclectic.
Academics, sports, fine arts, technical skills.
Parenting.

Tie a shoelace.
Learn to add.
Hit a home run.
Play Mozart.
Give a speech.
Ace the ACT.
Be kind to others.

Prepare a meal.
Milk a goat.
Change a tire.
Serve food with flair.
Repair equipment.
Lead well.
Help others heal.

Teacher, whatever your official title, you enable others to become who they are meant to be. 

Teacher Appreciation Day may bring you many gifts.  It may bring none. But there are times when current or former students think kindly of you and know without a doubt that you are a part of their success stories.

Perhaps it will be on Graduation Day.  Maybe it will be the day your student becomes a teacher.  It may be the day your pet died; the week you are kicked and spit upon; the day you stood up for the underling; following weeks of encouragement to struggling learners; your patient, consistent correction of bad behaviors; your flair for presenting history or making math class fun.

If it is not today, Teacher, be patient.  Appreciation is there, and one day you will see it.  And it will be so sweet.

#wwwbg21

Posted by: Beth | March 7, 2021

Now and Always

Now
Always
Forever
Never
Tomorrow
Yesterday
Today
Just give me a sec
In a minute
Sometime

Time is such a weird thing.  An afternoon spent laughing with friends is gone in the blink of an eye.  An hour spent staring at a math test when you can’t remember any of the formulas seems like eternity.  To the grandparent who wants to give gifts to over twenty grandchildren, you turn around twice and it’s Christmas again.  Meanwhile, to those children, from Christmas to a birthday is for-ev-er! 

Last night we had a little talk about how to get children to understand that the choices they make now are setting a pattern for the rest of their lives but the consequences are so much greater as you get older.  Well, for this particular child we now need to be prepared for questions like “Do you have enough money to pay the mortgage?” “Can we pay the light bill this month?” “Are you sure we can buy enough food?” “Have you done anything to go to jail?” “What’s so bad about losing a job? You did and you’re okay.” I’m thankful he has learned to look at a calendar and wait for days and weeks until an event. He counts hours or minutes with exactness. He counts months until his birthday.   But when it comes to things other than a specific event, then and now are not easily distinguished. At that moment in the conversation, I had a lightbulb moment.  Some children, and I realized this morning a number of adults I know, live in eternity.  Everything is now and everything is always.  That trait is maddening to those of us who live by a calendar and a clock, even if I do round times to the nearest quarter hour, which in turn drives my be-precise!-minded friends crazy.

            I awoke thinking about that concept.  Everything is now. Everything is forever.  I hope that on the other side of this life I have a new brain, because this one can not quite grasp the idea of life without time that steadily moves forward.  In the meantime, perhaps I will be a little more gracious to those who seem to have no sense of time, and more thankful for those who do live by a clock and a calendar.

            If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18 CSB


#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | February 10, 2021

DEEP ROOTS

“Nannie, we need to water this plant.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, the dirt is dry.”

“Mmmm …. How far down is it dry?”

“Huh?”

“Stick your finger into the soil. Can you feel any moisture?”

“Oh yeah!  Just a little bit of it is dry.  Then it’s damp.”

“Well, you need to wait until the soil is dry almost to the bottom of the pot and then water it.”

“Oh. Okay. But why?”

Years ago in what seems a different lifetime, a wholesale supplier told us that the perfect time to water a poinsettia is fifteen seconds before wilt.  So … when is that?  You can’t see wilt until it happens.  If you have tables full of plants, you can wait until a few near the edges wilt, and then most of them are just before wilt, and a few may be watered a little sooner than they really need it, but they will be okay.  But if you have just a few plants around your home, how do you tell?  And why does it matter? 

One way to tell is to check the soil mixture.  Stick your finger in it and see if it’s wet or not.  There are also cute little glass bulb thingeys that somehow let water out only when the soil is dry.  There are fancy soil moisture sensors that will tell you when to water. 

Why is it important?  If you have a plant or two that you will keep indoors, it may not really matter.  But if the plant is outside in the wind or will later be transplanted to the outdoors, it needs roots.  It needs lots of roots.  It needs deep roots.  Plants are efficient.  They will grow roots only long enough to reach water and nutrients.  If water is nearby, the roots stay short.  When the winds come, the plant is easily blown over.  If the roots have to reach deep for water, they will.  Deeper roots give the plant more stability.

Deep spiritual roots give us more stability, too.  Often we want to go to a retreat and grow our spiritual lives during the celebrations of life.  Celebrations and mountaintop retreats are nice, but much more often our faith is grown during the troubles of life.  We usually pray for our troubles to be fixed or to simply be poofed away as if by magic.  Troubles can be our allies.  They show us who are supportive friends are.  They give us an opportunity to use the skills we have learned.  And they teach us new skills that will help us later on.  Perhaps, instead of praying, “Fix this, God.  And do it NOW!”  we should consider praying, “God, I don’t like this.  You know I don’t like it.  You know this is hard.  Please help me see what I need to learn. I know I am learning to depend more on you instead of my own abilities and resources.  May this experience help me to become closer to the person you want me to be.”

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 ESV

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | January 21, 2021

CHANGING COURSE

We ask the questions.

Where did I go so wrong?

How did this happen?

What did I misunderstand so badly?

Who am I really following?

When did I get off-track?

And then one day, one moment, the questions change.

Where am I now? Where am I to go?

How will I get there?

What do I need to learn to get there?

Who should I be following?

When will I start?

We are here – at this time and in this place.

Where we go as a community or nation is dependent on a lot of things beyond any one person’s control.  Where each of us goes individually depends largely on the decisions we make as individuals.

We will depend on our faithful support group, and our God.

We will probably learn that we need to learn more than we can, but we will do the best with what we know at any given time.  We will seek to increase our knowledge and our wisdom.

We must act in a way that reflects who our mouths say we are following.

When? Hopefully soon.  Today is not too early.

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | January 20, 2021

UNPRECEDENTED?

My mind has been wondering around in hyper drive lately.  This morning I wandered outside to sit in the sun.  Sunshine, no breeze, and 45 degrees is pretty nice, especially with everyone else in the household asleep and no traffic on the road.

I have been wondering about the fear and uncertainty in our world.  They are consuming people like a prairie wildfire at the end of a year of drought. What are we so stinking afraid of?  The unknown.  The uncertainty.

I recently heard the remark, “Why would anybody have a baby NOW?”  I also heard that in the 70s – the cold war and the imminent threat of mutual annihilation kept a lot of people in a state of fear.  In the early 21st century, students were shot at school.  Unprecedented!  No, it wasn’t’.  Violence tore at schools and communities in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. 

That brings to mind the War Between the States.  Imagine a family with several sons, and those adult sons choose different sides. As far as the deadliest attack on American soil, we did it to ourselves in that war.  Can you imagine living in Virginia, or any other border state, in 1863 and finding out your first grandchild would be born in a few months? Will the doctor be available if something goes wrong?  Will the town still be here?  Will my home be mine or full of soldiers?  Will we have any food or will the military have taken it all? There was no social security or food stamps or aid for families with children.  It was you, your family, and your community.

Going a little farther back … what about the American Revolution?  It’s easy now, close to 250 years later, to choose a side.  But what if you were living then?  What if you valued the steady income from sales of your products to England and your brother wanted to stop paying a government to tell him what he could and could not do?

Disease and pestilence have caused havoc in the past, too.  Few people seem to remember H1N1 in 2009, when schools were shut down here and there, not nationwide but as needed, for months. That pandemic officially lasted sixteen months, from April, 2009 to August, 2010.  HIV, Hong Kong flu, polio, the influenza outbreak of 1918, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, locust swarms, Black Death, and a host of other things that I don’t even know about.

We think of being born into a royal family as a great thing, but was it really?  An uprising that resulted in a new family leading the country could mean the death of everyone in the deposed family.  That practice has gone on for millennia.  Not much of a problem, perhaps, for the peasants, but for those on the edge of royalty I imagine any uprising brought quite a bit of stress from uncertainty.

So what? 

This is what.  Uncertainty is almost as old as humanity.  Fear is as old as uncertainty. Today is not the first day ever of many people wondering what the future holds, with many hopeful and many fearful.  Covid is not yet the deadliest disease ever.  It may be the most uncertain day in your lifetime.  It may be the deadliest disease in your lifetime, but before you are sure of that, do a little research. 

I am sure of a few things. God did not start caring for people just yesterday.  He has walked beside us and carried us from the beginning of time. He has been with his children for millennia. He is able to strengthen us through whatever the future holds. We hold to this hope because he has done so in the past.  Bad stuff happens to people who follow God and people who don’t.  Our happiness depends a little on what happens to us and around us and a whole lot on how we respond to those things.  Our joy is found in resting in the arms of God.

May you have a joyful day, whatever your circumstances.

It rains on the just and the unjust. – Matthew 5:45

The joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10

#bgwww21

Posted by: Beth | January 18, 2021

CURIOSITY

Have you been around a toddler lately?  A little child who is just learning to talk?  What’s that? Who is that?  What’s that?  What’s this? Every breath seems to be a question.  By the age of three the question is “Why?”  No matter how many times you answer, their reply is “Why?”  We begin life as curious creatures.  It’s how we learn about our world and ourselves. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes.  You sang that didn’t you? We learn what, who, where, and eventually when, how, and why.

Fast-forward to adulthood and we are still curious. What’s that noise?!  Oh, it’s just a cat outside the door.  Why in the world would anybody do that? What caused this cancer?  Why are those flowers sometimes blue and sometimes pink – on the same bush? Is it supposed to rain this weekend? Will it really be that bad if I don’t take this medicine the doctor prescribed? How many times can one child spill a glass of milk – during one meal? Where do the memories go?

Sometimes the answers are easy to find, like the cat outside the door.  Some are a bit exasperating, like how many times can the milk be spilled. Some are mostly fun, like what makes a hydrangea blue or pink.  Some create conspiracy theories, like why would anybody do such a thing, whatever “that thing” happens to be.

I don’t know if curiosity has really killed many cats, but it has gotten some people into a bit of a pickle. You know as many of those stories as I do.  Someone is curious enough to eavesdrop but not curious enough to clarify the details. The story gets passed along and changed and eventually gets back to the original speaker, who laughs hysterically at the ridiculousness of the story.  Or, they get mad and create a scene and go try to straighten out all the details to everybody.  Either way, it’s just a mess.

And then there’s the dig for facts kind of curiosity.  Once upon a time you had to know people who knew things or read books to find information.  Now, you just ask Siri or Alexa or Google.  And if it’s on the internet, it has to be true, right?  We all know that, sadly, that many things on the internet are not true. Distinguishing the facts from opinions can be difficult.  Even more difficult is distinguishing true information from twisted information. New information compounds the difficulty of knowing what is “true.”

Just a few tidbits from history –

Bloodletting is a cure for disease.
Tomatoes are poisonous.

Pewter, a popular material for drinking vessels, was made of lead. We used lead in water pipes and paint for our walls and furniture without causing any harm.

Thermometers were made of glass with mercury inside.  Shoot, we safely played with little balls of mercury after the thermometer broke.

At points in history, these were considered true.  We have learned differently.  To believe that we at this point in history have a complete and thorough understanding of what is safe and what is not is to be dangerously arrogant. To settle on an opinion and be closed to new information on a topic – whether it is what fabrics to use for clothing or masks, what kinds of food to eat, whether to wear a mask or get a vaccine – is to risk looking as silly as those people you think were pitifully ignorant in years past.

#bgwww21

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